Just a day before the all important fifth phase of elections in West Bengal, Mamata’s key aide Firhad Hakim, popularly known as Bobby Hakim, attracted massive controversy by reportedly calling the Kolkata Port area as “mini-Pakistan”, to a foreign correspondent. Speaking to prominent Pakistan newspaper The Dawn, urban minister Bobby who is part of Mamata’s cabinet, offered correspondent Maleeha Hamid Sidiqqui a tour of his constituency, which he refers to as ‘mini Pakistan’. The report was published by the newspaper on Friday titled ‘Canvassing in ‘mini-Pakistan’ of Kolkata’, and it immediately became ‘viral’ on social media, with many questioning what message Bobby wanted to convey about Indian Muslims in general and those hailing from Kolkata in particular to the Pak journalist. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the article, Bobby also makes a condescending remark about Muslim women saying they don’t come out to campaign, but Hindu women do. The Kolkata port area from where Bobby is contesting is a cosmopolitan area with people from various strata and religions living together. Bobby Hakim himself is known for harbouring a secular image, being a patron of a club which organises one of the most prominent Durga pandals in the city. But Bobby has been in the eye of controversy recently, being one of the leaders who was caught allegedly taking a bribe in the Narada scam.
ALSO READ West Bengal Elections Phase 5: Will Narada sting TMC’s great South Bengal firewall around Kolkata? Meanwhile, Bobby has obliquely justified his comments after the controversy broke. “It’s a blatant attempt to foment communal tension ahead of the polls. I will not elaborate on this issue because it is beneath my dignity to do so. If PM Modi can visit Pakistan four times, how does it matter if one Firhad Hakim gives a ‘mini-Pakistan’ statement?” he told the Times of India.TMC MP Sultan Ahmed has also been quoted saying that he doesn’t agree with those views, provided Firhad Hakim has said so. Many in TMC though have questioned the timing of the article, alleging that somehow BJP is behind it to foment communal tension in the area.
ALSO READ West Bengal elections 2016: Why Mamata Banerjee’s TMC could retain power despite the hiccupsBJP leader Joyprakash Mandal told TOI, “The statement has been on the Internet for half a day. During the entire period, no Trinamool functionary said anything in protest. This shows that they want to remain silent about it. We have filed a complaint with EC.”In the Dawn article, Bobby takes pride in his Urdu with a Bihari twang. The correspondent, after seeing most of the signboards in Urdu in that part of the constituency, writes in the article that it is truly a “mini- Pakistan”. The straightjacket notion of attributing a religion or language to a certain country often misses the point of how inclusive India is as a nation. Hakim perhaps wanted to get the Pakistani correspondent feel at home by making the reference, but he may have reinforced many of the existing stereotypes about the Muslim community in India.